Milton denies Dragons league title

LEWISBURG — Its HAC-II championship dreams dashed long ago, Milton started thing about the next best thing. If the Black Panthers could not win the title, they could deny their rivals the same joy.

And Milton did just that again Wednesday night. A week after all but eliminating Danville, the Panthers prevented Lewisburg from winning a league title on its home court and did so in impressive fashion.

Ryan Emery scored 20 points, Keayon Williams added 18 and both starters and reserves made big impacts as Milton dominated the final four minutes of an exciting game and defeated Lewisburg, 69-62. The win denied Lewisburg a share of the HAC-II title, giving it outright to Loyalsock and again showed how dangerous Milton (10-10, 4-6) can become playoff time.

“This was our PHAC tournament,” Milton coach Gene Bruno said. “We’re out of it and, credit to everyone that’s in it, but we wanted to beat Danville and we wanted to knock these guys out and we did that which will make it more interesting when districts come around because we could see them again.”

“We definitely wanted to knock them out and it was a big win,” Williams said. “We hadn’t beaten Lewisburg in my high school career so this was big for us. It’s a good feeling right now.”

Milton has overcome 0-4 and 5-9 starts to reach .500. It has lost a series of heartbreakers, including to Danville at the buzzer and in overtime to Lewisburg. But the Panthers are learning to win those close games that eluded them earlier, beating Danville by three last week and pulling away late in the Lewisburg rematch. After Lewisburg tied the game 57-57 midway through the fourth quarter, Emery made a steal and found Williams for a layup. Next, Emery scored off a putback and Lewisburg pulled within two just once more.

Tony Manzano (13 points, seven rebounds) helped Milton control the offensive glass in the second half and his difficult off-balance putback gave Milton a 65-61 with 90 seconds remaining. River Mertz hit the front end of a 1-and-1 to make it a four-point game again before Emery and Williams clinched the win with foul shots in the last 20 seconds. It was a big win against a strong team and also Milton’s first victory against Lewisburg in more than a decade.

“This year has been a roller coaster ride. Coach has been patient with us because we’ve been putting him through something this year,” Williams said. “Coming off last year to this year, the transition with many seniors working together, it feels pretty good pulling it out.”

Lewisburg (15-6, 7-3) led by five after the first quarter but trailed by two at halftime. Nate Liscum then had a hand in the second-half’s first seven points and Lewisburg took another five-point lead. Complicating matters for Milton, Williams picked up his third foul and Emery his fourth with three minutes remaining in the third quarter. But instead of wilting, Milton came back swinging and its reserves played terrific.

Will Silva, Eric Council, Eric Wilt and Drew Trate made a series of key plays and Council’s 3-pointer put Milton ahead 50-48 late in the quarter. A Williams putback gave Milton a 52-48 lead entering the fourth and, although Lewisburg tied the game twice, it never regained the lead.

“I had to take Ryan out with the four fouls and the guys I put in there picked it up and we took the lead at that point with those kids in there,” Bruno said. “That’s a credit to them. Usually when those two (Emery and Williams) don’t score we’re in trouble, but they stepped up and played really well.”

“It was a battle just like the last game and the last time we made a couple more plays than they did and tonight they made a couple more than we did,” Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. “They answered every challenge we threw at them. We’d get a lead and they would answer and take the lead. We’d fight back and tie it and then they would take the lead again.”

Dylan Farronato and Sal Brown each scored 15 points for Lewisburg with Farronato grabbing seven rebounds and adding three assists. Liscum had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists while Nick Shedleski scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds. Aaron Hoover was strong off the bench, scoring seven points.

It was Senior Night at Lewisburg last night but only one player, Adam Cole (6 rebounds, 4 assists), was honored. That, and losing two 1,000-point scorers to graduation, had many thinking Lewisburg had little shot of competing for a league championship. That the Dragons were playing for one on the last night of league play was impressive in itself.

“If you would have told me we’d be 15-6 at the start of the year with what we lost I’d be pretty happy,” Vaji said. “To be in the last game of the league season playing for a division championship, what more could you ask for from the kids?”

Milton (69)

Ryan Emery 7 4-8 20, Keayon Williams 7 3-6 18, Tony Manzano 5 3-4 13, Alex Garcia 0 0-0 0, River Mertz 1 1-2 3, Drew Trate 0 0-0 0, Eric Council 2 0-0 6, Eric Wilt 0 2-2 2, Will Silva 3 0-0 7. Totals 25 13-22 69.

Lewisburg (62)

Sal Brown 6 2-6 15, Dylan Farronato 6 2-3 15, Nate Liscum 6 0-2 14, Nick Shedleski 2 3-4 7, Adam Cole 0 0-0 0, Aaron Hoover 3 2-2 9, Sam Miller 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 9-17 62.

Milton    13 20 19 17–69

Lewisburg    18 13 19 12–62

3-point goals: Milton 6 (Emery 2, Council 2, Williams 1, Silva 1); Lewisburg 5 (Liscum 2, Brown 1, Farronato 1, Hoover 1).

Records: Milton (10-10, 4-6 HAC-II), Lewisburg (15-6, 7-3).

JV score: Lewisburg, 51-45.